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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Jun;129(6):1452-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.12.993. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Gut matters: microbe-host interactions in allergic diseases.

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Biofunctionality, ZIEL-Research Center for Nutrition and Food Science, CDD Center for Diet and Disease, Technische Universität München, Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.


The human body can be considered a metaorganism made up of its own eukaryotic cells and trillions of microbes that colonize superficial body sites, such as the skin, airways, and gastrointestinal tract. The coevolution of host and microbes brought about a variety of molecular mechanisms, which ensure a peaceful relationship. The mammalian barrier and immune functions warrant simultaneous protection of the host against deleterious infections, as well as tolerance toward harmless commensals. Because these pivotal host functions evolved under high microbial pressure, they obviously depend on a complex network of microbe-host interactions. The rapid spread of immune-mediated disorders, such as autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases, and allergies, in westernized countries is thus thought to be due to environmentally mediated disturbances of this microbe-host interaction network. The aim of the present review is to highlight the importance of the intestinal microbiota in shaping host immune mechanisms, with particular emphasis on allergic diseases and possible intervention strategies.

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